Blake Bortles won't have to move very far to reach his new destination. The Central Florida quarterback was selected third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2014 NFL draft.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora broke the news before Commissioner Roger Goodell reached the podium to announce the selection:
Jacksonville has been without a true franchise quarterback arguably since the days of Mark Brunell. Now, they're banking their future on Bortles and hoping he can provide the spark to turn the franchise around.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley told NFL.com's Jeff Darlington that he and his staff had no doubts as to whom the team would select:
The team welcomed in its newest star on Twitter:
Despite what was Jacksonville's evident confidence in the player, this was by far the first major shock of the first round. Many expected the Jags to go with Khalil Mack or possibly Sammy Watkins. If they wanted a quarterback, Johnny Manziel even seemed the consensus bet.
One of Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller's Twitter followers certainly didn't see the pick coming:
Grantland's Bill Barnwell commended Jacksonville with how well it prevented its draft strategy from leaking to the media. But now the Jaguars will have to actually develop Bortles as a player, which will be much tougher to do:
About six months ago, Bortles getting drafted this high would've seemed crazy. ESPN's Chris Mortensen tracked his meteoric rise. He's gone from being an unknown recruit coming out of high school to the third pick in the NFL draft:
Mortensen added that the UCF signal-caller's stock rose dramatically during his pre-draft workouts:
There's no question that Bortles has an uphill climb ahead, considering the Jaguars' recent quarterback history. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Jacksonville ranked last in Total QBR in the 2013 season:
The Jags traded up to the 10th overall pick to select Blaine Gabbert back in 2011. That makes Jacksonville only the second team in NFL history to draft two QBs in the top 10 in a four-year span:
Of course, many are making the comparison between Gabbert and Bortles. The former was an unmitigated disaster, while the latter has followed largely the same draft trajectory as his predecessor.
Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar also highlighted the similarities between their names, which may be a bad omen:
SportsPickle thinks another bad omen for Bortles might be the way in which the Jaguars have developed QBs. The recent history isn't very flattering, between Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Gabbert and then Chad Henne:
Although many fans might be disappointed with the selection of Bortles, the key for the Jaguars will be allowing the quarterback to make mistakes during his rookie season. Bortles is far from the finished product, so he'll need some seasoning before his game is more refined.
The former Knights star does have a ton of potential. While Jacksonville is the butt of some jokes at the moment, it may have the last laugh.